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Kbatz: Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Posted in News with tags , , , , on February 23, 2015 by kbattz

Coppola’s Dracula is Indeed Bram’s

By Kristin Battestella

You know the story I’m sure. Bela Lugosi, the widow’s peak, creatures of the night! Even Leslie Nielson’s spoof Dracula: Dead and Loving It shares those cliché vampire stereotypes. In a hundred years of films, only one Dracula film affirms to the spirit of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel. In 1991 director and producer Francis Ford Coppola threw out the widow’s peak and presented the ambitious Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Gary Oldman (Batman Begins, Air Force One) stars as Dracula, the lovelorn count from Transylvania. After his first lawyer Renfield (Tom Waits) returns to England raving with madness, Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves) is dispatched to the Count. Dracula grows obsessed with Harker’s betrothed Mina (Winona Ryder, Beetlejuice), and after arriving in London, Dracula preys upon Mina’s friend Lucy Westerna (Sadie Frost, An Ideal Husband). Lucy’s suitors Lord Arthur (Cary Elwes), Quincy P. Morris (Billy Campbell) and Dr. Steward (Richard E. Grant) are helpless against her ailments. Suspecting something unnatural, Dr. Steward contacts his mentor, Abraham Van Helsing (Anthony Hopkins).

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You’ll notice there’s a lot more characters than your garden variety Dracula picture. Coppola and screenwriter James V. Hart adhere as closely to Stoker’s novel as possible. Previous legal issues with the Stoker estate and stage productions forced dramatic changes and character combinations. Of the many actors, only Keanu Reeves seems out of place. Not far enough removed from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Reeves’ Tiger Beat persona did however appeal to teenage girls not likely to chance a period piece.

Despite her previous issues with Coppola, Ryder holds her own with Oscar winner Sir Anthony Hopkins. Today’s actors don’t really look the part when making costume pictures. Hopkins, of course, fits in with perfection, as does The Princess Bride veteran Cary Elwes. I can go one about the entire cast-there is something to be said when an entire production clicks together; Fine direction, acting, story, and sets.

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Naturally, Coppola had sound source material. If you don’t like Stoker’s gothic, yet erotic and horrific Victorian novel, this film version is not for you. Some lines and scenes are word for word out of the book, and Coppola pays homage to the writing styles of the book by actually showing the characters typing, dictating, or composing the letters that tell the story. Outside of the love story bookends created by Coppola, I don’t think any motion picture has ever been so faithful to its book or origin- except for staple productions of A Christmas Carol.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula has its fair share of blood- blood and sultry vampire brides. While the film is not in itself all that scary, the ideas presented are dangerous and somewhat frightening. Coppola captures Stoker’s original intentions in the character of Van Helsing. Hopkins strikes the perfect balance between kinky eccentric and fearsome vampire undead hunter. His narrations on sex, blood, vampirism, and other beastly incarnations remind us that Stoker’s original tale wasn’t to glorify Dracula-unlike modern takes on vampires in film and literature.

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Not only do Oscar winning costumes and sets show off Dracula, impressive effects also highlight Coppola’s production. Misty ships, werewolf transformations, and all those slithery Dracula moves fit seamlessly with the spooky subject matter. All the gruesome scenes and decapitations are on DVD-forget watching Bram Stoker’s Dracula on basic TV. Too much is edited from the film to be appreciated.

Lighting effects and music cues spotlight Dracula’s attention to detail. Dracula’s castle is perfectly shadowed with candlelight, and the gaslights and early technical wonders of London add to the period atmosphere. Likewise the film’s score ups the creepy ante. The haunting work by Wojciech Kilar (The Pianist) enters every scene at the right moment. When the audience hears Dracula’s particular theme, we know something naughty is about to happen. When I heard the closing song in its entirety on the DVD, I knew it was Annie Lennox. As with her Oscar winning vocal performance for Return of the King, Lennox’s unique vibrato tops Dracula.

 

Of course, Dracula’s length and pacing are its only strikes. The slow pace and more talking less action sequences make the picture seem longer than its two hours and fifteen minutes. The finish however, is fast paced, and Coppola resolves his time traveling love triangle bookends-his only deviation from Stoker’s work.

Not a family film by any means or for the eyes of the squeamish or prudish, Bram Stoker’s Dracula also might not be enjoyed by the traditional period piece audience. Although there is no outright sex in the film, Coppola’s illusions to the vampire bite as penetration, heavy petting and nudity from the vampire brides, a touch of homoerotic undertones, and one count of potential bestiality rape might be too much for fans of films like The Remains of the Day. Quirky Ryder fans will no doubt eat up Dracula, as will Hopkins and Oldman fans. Horror enthusiasts, romance lovers, and proprietors of all things goth can enjoy Dracula with each viewing. Several editions of the DVD are available-from affordable older copies to new anniversary editions with features. Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a must have in any budding horror fan’s library. You can’t be a definitive Dracula fan without it.

 

Monster Erotica, Really? – It’s a Thing

Posted in News with tags , , , on February 22, 2015 by Horror Addicts Guest

Monster Erotica, Really? – It’s a Thing

by Dee Blake

tlflatearthWhile some people don’t like to admit it, many have read some form of erotica in their lifetime.  Sometimes it’s racy modern BSDM, other times it’s historical bodice-rippers, or maybe even madame ” tell-alls”.  But you’ll also find cross-genre offerings of this type as well: fantasy, paranormal or horror erotica in a variety of themes and formats.  Erotica is for everyone who happens to be interested – including those who prefer speculative fiction.

Amongst novels and anthologies of this nature, there’s a niche sub-genre that appeals to those who like their sexy scary and scaly or hairy, an interesting domain known as cryptozoological or monster erotica.  What exactly is this and where might you find it?  Read on and I’ll elaborate.

We’ve all heard legends of vampires, demons or certain fairy creatures getting down and dirty with the common man or woman.  They are the seducers of lore, luring potential prey in with their magical charms, bewitching their victims with their sexy wiles.  That’s the traditional monster erotica fare that you’d expect to find in trendy paranormal romance.   But monster erotica also involves something of the unexpected as well.

My first introduction to this type of erotica was via the tamer folk tales of fairy intruders making nightly visits to human lovers and the dark fantasy of Tanith Lee’s Flat Earth Series which delves into the realm of demon lovers.  It does have glimpses of demon passion, but the story is more fantasy than erotica (recommended reading).

I also encountered the occasional monster tale in the Hot Blood horror erotica anthology series, but the stories in those books are not exclusively monster-themed.  They are, however, a lot of fun.

Beyond that, I discovered the monster-exclusive erotica books out there, dedicated to naughty close encounters of a different kind – and apparently, they sell like hotcakes (see the i09 article and Goodreads has a list dedicated to it) And writers don’t stick to the traditional legendary seducers either.  You’ll find a diverse offering of creatures, from well-endowed yeti to shape-shifting dragons, from melancholy mermen to monsters under the bed (I mean, if they’re hanging out there, why not invite them up? Right?)

Despite its apparent popularity, the sub-genre has not been without its controversy.  There are those out there who see it as odd, disturbing or questionable to some degree, and Amazon has played hardball with authors, questioning whether or not their content was in violation of Amazon content guidelines.  That may have slowed production down somewhat, but it certainly hasn’t stopped it.  It’s a matter of demand and supply, after all.

Obstacles aside, I believe monster erotica is here to stay.  Silly or serious, it offers a novel form of escapism that is both titillating and a little terrifying. As long as readers keep asking for it, I think writers will be willing to provide.

I mean, if you’re going to fantasize, why not go all the way?

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DBDee Blake is an emerging erotica writer whose work has been published on breatlessnights.com and in Apokrupha’s Fur and Fang anthology. She aspires to be the next Anais Nin.

Kbatz: The Phantom of the Opera (2004)

Posted in News with tags , , on February 21, 2015 by kbattz

The 2004 Phantom of the Opera is Moody, Musical Fun

By Kristin Battestella

Nearly ten years ago, the long running stage production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera was brought to cinemas in full on spectacle fashion with this 2004 film adaptation. Although I was initially somewhat indifferent to this rendition thanks to my love for the 1925 and 1943 versions, it remains a fun, flashy, and rousing take for today’s audiences.

New Parisian opera owners Firmin (Ciaran Hinds) and Andre (Simon Callow) argue with their prima donna Carlotta Guidicelli (Minnie Driver) and lose the star on the night their new patron Raoul, the Viscount de Chagny (Patrick Wilson) is to attend. Fortunately, the elusive, unseen Ghost of the Opera known as The Phantom (Gerard Butler) has been training Christine Daae (Emmy Rossum), the orphaned dancer of a famous Swedish musician, how to sing the show’s operettas. Though she thinks of him as an angel of music, The Phantom is passionately obsessed with Christine and writes threatening letters to the new owners to ensure her placement over the appeased Carlotta in the upcoming productions. When Christine pleads with The Phantom to reveal himself, he takes her to his lair beneath the Opera Populaire, unbeknownst to all except ballet mistress Madame Giry (Miranda Richardson). Soon Christine is conflicted between The Phantom’s longing guidance and her engagement to her childhood friend Raoul. Scorned, deformed, and unloved, The Phantom demands his Don Juan opera be performed while he plots the destruction of all who stand between him and a new, beautiful life with Christine.

 

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From Stage to Screen

Director Joel Schumacher (The Lost Boys, Batman Forever) co-wrote this 2004 adaptation along with producer Lloyd Webber (Cats, Jesus Christ Superstar) and naturally, The Phantom of the Opera closely adheres to the stage musical and not necessarily Gaston Leroux’s original 1911 novel. That alone may put off viewers here, as will the almost everything in song spectacle and decidedly Broadway structure. Things that could be simply said are instead unnecessarily embellished in song – sometimes at the expense of pace and plot. Numbers such as “Notes,” “Prima Donna,” and the start of “Masquerade” feel overlong and overdone in their lavishness and unfortunately stay away from the core love triangle for too long. By default, these have us itching for the titular happenings, yes, and this beat for beat, all music on stage and off is the point of this musical adaptation, of course – everything we see onscreen is meant to be one stage production after another with humor interspersed for brevity. However, this people breaking out in song for no good reason is why mainstream audiences have such extreme love or hate for musicals. Adding dance, spectacle, and goofy grins on top of this already misplaced measure is meant to make us enjoy the so grandiose as to bemuse, but it compromises the attempt at edgy, mass appeal filmmaking here. The Phantom of the Opera both doesn’t go far enough in its brooding and asks too much by remaining caught up in its own musical indulgence for nearly two and a half hours. The writing should have been tighter, with a streamlined tempo and much darker humor or played straight antagonism. Part of me wishes we just had this cast without the purely musical elements. I even suspect it would be an interesting silent movie-esque adventure to watch this on mute, for the performances are strong and emotional enough without the song.

 

Fortunately, some vocals also serve as narration in more popular, contemporary, music video styling. Surreal camera shots, reflections, dreamlike fog, candlelight, and sweeping tracking shots to start “Think of Me” and “Angel of Music” establish the fantasy while rhythmic intercutting between the stage performances, behind the scenes action, above drama, and below angst build intensity. Though atmospheric with an OId World feeling, the black and white opening and closing scenes, however, should have been just that, bookends. Briefly revisiting this time merely for neat transitions is a pointless interruption amid the rafter chases, deaths, taut suspense, and more action styled scenes. Having the tale locked in a flashback also makes another character’s flashback within confusing, and the age changes also fudge part of the timeline. Sure, it’s all elegant and pretty to behold, but these adornments clutter the narrative and become a hindrance to The Phantom of the Opera. Where the Silent Version is still demented, horror macabre and the 1943 Claude Rains delight provides a more traditional musical ingredient – the tunes come from the opera performances alone – to the disappointment of horror fans, this Phantom of the Opera isn’t scary at all. Certainly, this is a gothic piece with an under current of darkness, duality, layers, masks, and what goes on behind the curtain flair, and while it may be geared toward a teen audience, the black capes, white snow, and blood red lips provide sophistication and symbolism. We don’t necessarily label films the same as books, but this Phantom feels like the definition of paranormal romance. It’s meant for audiences who don’t normally like love stories, horror, or even musicals. Its saturated lavishness and visual delights detract from its flaws, but also attract the viewer into forgiving them – a lot like its eponymous ghost, actually. A fun, snowy sword fight over a girl and the switch in when the chandelier drops are smart cinematic changes ushering in a big, rousing film finale. Lloyd Webber may know a heck of a lot about putting on a darn good show, but he’s a bit too can’t see the forest for the trees when it came to adapting The Phantom of the Opera. Thankfully, Schumacher was indeed the right director for this piece, and overall, The Phantom of the Opera pulls off its movie adaptation thanks to what it does purely for film requirements away from its stage source.

 

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The Phantom

Well then, let’s talk about Gerard Butler, shall we? Normally I require a minimum of stubble on him, but I like this clean-shaven and half face coverage, strange as that may sound. Yes, he needed more singing practice and his tone is uneven. However, I accept that his voice is not that of a trained virtuoso, for The Phantom has had no formal voice coaching in his underground lair, and who knows what those supposed nasal deformities could do to one’s sound. The Phantom’s voice is edgy; he’s an angry, mental dude, and this unpolished sound reflects the part of him we don’t see under the mask. Butler enters a half hour in ahead of “The Phantom of the Opera,” and its organ on acid mix of gothic fury and rock matches his style. This Phantom has a lot of cool, sexy swag and raw elements, and were he a debonair singer, it would seem out of character. He isn’t really the Angel of Music, so why should his voice be angelic? Of course, our deep and guttural singer also actually lives in the gutter and sings all but a dozen of his lines, and his groomed stalking of an orphaned teenager is skivvy, almost like pedophilia in plain sight creepy. He’s older and perhaps paternal, granted, but The Phantom is also very juvenile, plays with toys, equates music to love, and carries an entitlement chip on his shoulder along with some very underdeveloped social skills – seen most tragically in his brief “Masquerade” reprise. He’s also not that deformed, and it’s easy to look past his flawed face thanks to Butler’s desperation and passion in “The Music of the Night.” We understand how this lonely man’s attentions could blossom from something musical to all things saucy. His notes aren’t as big as the stage renditions of “The Music of the Night,” but we believe his music genius and the earnestness of this seductive plea. The Phantom’s holding up the radio ala Say Anything – how can Christine refuse? His entire lair reveal feels like a veiled sex scene placeholder: the way they go down the stairs, thru the tunnel, the black horse, his boat and the motion of the ocean, the opening of the gate, the high notes, the lyrics themselves, their caresses, and her fainting at seeing the bridal doll. What’s the boy been doing with a red satin, bird shaped, love nest bed and why are Christine’s newly sexed up stockings off when she wakes?

The Phantom of the Opera is of course set up in The Phantom’s favor, and we spend over ten minutes with his reveal and “The Music of the Night” compared to Raoul’s brief “Little Lotte” reminisce and dinner plans. Without a doubt, he has a violent streak and killer instinct, but does that automatically make The Phantom a monster? The audience feels more for his un-nurtured nature than fears his violence. Some of that is the aforementioned song over scares adaptation unevenness, sure, but we also see how everything The Phantom does is for Christine. It’s a twisted, unhealthy obsession and it’s ultimately about the compassion he wants from her, yet we don’t blame the weeping Phantom for his actions. While horror fans may despise this lack of menace or the danger as charisma that fan girls justify purely because of Butler, there is a whiff of social commentary from Leroux at play, particularly in the Red Death’s “Why So Silent?” interruption of “Masquerade.” The use of Poe’s pestilence itself is telling, a plague upon an exclusive, decadent host. Do these party patrons deserve The Phantom’s comeuppance? Did the outcast circumstances alone make him the way he is? We leave the misunderstood on the fringes of society and then wonder why they snap. All The Phantom wants is some love! Isn’t that proof that he is not without redemption for his crimes? Die hard fans of the stage production may dislike Butler’s good girls like bad boys Hollywood take, but for those new to The Phantom of the Opera, he’s easy to love. Maybe The Phantom is Christine’s Angel of Music after all – an innocent incarnation maturing from, as George Michael says, “father figure, preacher, teacher,” to her dark Phantom lover and “anything you had in mind.” I’m surprised Butler only became a cult favorite and international phenomenon rather than a stateside top of the box office superstar with this film, and I do pick on Gerry a lot thanks to some of his stinky romantic comedies. Honestly, most of his films do fall into the guilty pleasure category. However, anyone who thinks he can’t act or at the very least bring it to a role should see these pre-300 films such as The Phantom of the Opera and Dear Frankie. By time we get to “The Point of No Return” one can’t help but think damn he’s good!

 

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Christine and Raoul

Certainly, I can forgive the soft focus and candle glow on Emmy Rossum (Shameless) as The Phantom’s protégé Christine Daae because it works wonderfully with her swept up, innocent, and angelic dreamscapes in The Phantom of the Opera. Christine begins the tale as an orphaned, small dancer in the opera repertory, but her “Think of Me” big voice potential and childlike belief in an “Angel of Music” sent by her late, famed father – seen in portraits as Ramin Karimloo, the West End Phantom – soon develop into a larger presence and much more scandalous relationship. Despite our apprehensions about The Phantom, Christine is seduced by the very idea of him. She is the one who insists upon his reveal – for all we know, The Phantom wasn’t going to make his romantic case until her insistence after Raoul came swooping in as the competition. Christine’s love and tenderness could be good for The Phantom, right? She pities him, he inspires her, and the pair feels more Beauty and the Beast than they do threatening. Of course, Christine dresses more sexy and grown up as The Phantom of the Opera progresses, from big and grand white gowns to close but bound corsets, saucy stockings, pushed up bodices, symbolic black, and ultimately, barefoot and lacy senorita reds. Emmy’s hair is exceptional I must say, and this costuming adds to the enchantment. Again, fans of the stage performances may dislike Rossum’s youthful, not always emotive approach and most of her role is in song. However, her mournful, conflicting feelings in “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” and “Wandering Child” come across with some great bedroom eyes, and a few ecstatic, even near orgasmic looks over The Phantom’s singing are both amusing and rousing. She does care for The Phantom, and Emmy perfectly conveys the heavenly, willing to love opportunity. Unfortunately, his violence and prepubescent mine mine mine drives Christine to the ultimate just friends condemnation and mongoloid hatred just like everyone else. Christine is caught up in his passion and volatile, and though this back and forth fear feels hollow to the viewer because The Phantom is never presented as scary to us, her pain is apparent thanks to his increasingly dangerous demands.

Of course, the younger ages are again a little kinky, and the teenage angst might be too wishy washy for the older, more cultured theatre audience. Christine runs to the cool, snowy rooftop to escape The Phantom, but he is already there. Whoops! For one so supposedly enamored with Raoul, she doesn’t notice when he leaves during “Why So Silent?” nor does she wake him before going to the cemetery. Her relationship with him seems the stagnant, chaste, platonic affair of their childhood while its The Phantom’s passionate voice that turns her on. Several frames before “The Phantom of the Opera” imply a halo on her head and a pseudo bridal procession, as if she was innocent and intact before “The Music of the Night” but deflowered by the experience. She pulls her lace sleeves up when singing to Raoul in “The Point of No Return” but lets them fall off her shoulders when up close and personal with The Phantom for the next verse. We understand her predicament, but Christine is indeed culpable for her own for love or money choice. She’ll get her kicks with The Phantom, sure, but why would she marry him when Raoul’s countess opportunities await? Her cruel public removal of The Phantom’s mask feels almost like a face shaming, as if he has the audacity to think she would choose an ugly underground life with him. The Phantom asks Raoul if he thought he would hurt Christine, but both men seem played by her. Was The Phantom truly first but dismissed at the altar? Did Raoul spend his life in the shadow of The Phantom’s passion? Christine ditches The Phantom but wears his wedding dress anyway, and all the while she’s supposed to be scared of him? For someone supposedly so uninterested, she certainly gives him a few darn good kisses!

If The Phantom of the Opera is set up in its eponymous antagonist’s favor, that makes things troublesome for Patrick Wilson (Angels in America) as Raoul, the Opera Populaire’s debonair, young, rich patron. He’s Christine’s childhood friend turned sweetheart, but their relationship is simply not as well developed as The Phantom’s seduction. Raoul even dismisses the idea of Christine’s “Angel of Music” in “Why Have You Brought Me Here?” and takes too long to believe The Phantom is real, almost not until their swordfight. Christine shouldn’t have to sing her “All I Ask of You” plea to Raoul –especially after The Phantom is heard in the opera house and kills during “Poor Fool He Makes Me Laugh.” Their puppy love seems forced and reintroduced in each scene they have together – which feels like a lot less than her time with The Phantom. Scandalous suggestions that they are lovers is heard from others in “Notes” and “Prima Donna” but not seen, and this final angle of The Phantom of the Opera’s love triangle feels more like a fifth wheel love that may or may not last. The Phantom may be too intense, but what does Raoul really do to sway Christine? Again, his “I’m real, he is not” argument feels devoid to the audience because we know it’s invalid, nay, Raoul even seems like a jerk when he says Christine is free and safe from The Phantom because we can see he is right there with them. Wilson certainly has an easy, effortless voice, but we hardly hear it. Raoul is the nice, safe choice for Christine and we need his man versus man conflict in The Phantom of the Opera along with his potential. He and Christine can advance and grow together – unlike The Phantom, whose love and genius is childlike and stunted by his early abandonment. He wants “All I Ask of You” sung to him, but instead The Phantom must witness Christine and Raoul’s love in another semi-sex scene. Where “The Music of The Night” is more like a drunken, heady make out that you aren’t sure if you remember or regret, “All I Ask of You” has Christine in a red cape upon the snowy high, asking Raoul if she loves her. He answers, “You know I do,” in a “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” quickie. The exit goes behind closed doors and several months pass before “Masquerade,” but Christine and Raoul are immediately secretly engaged onscreen while The Phantom was left subtextually crushing rosebuds. He’s upfront about his passion while Raoul represents social opportunity, and the viewer is caught up in where the competition goes next. Even the shocked, tearful Raoul appears to think Christine has chosen The Phantom in “The Point of No Return.” Christine shows such passion with The Phantom before the entire company while his engagement to her went undisclosed. How can Raoul – the titled, fresh faced boy hero on the white horse – save Christine from The Phantom and his tricked out opera house? He fences while The Phantom swishes his cape thru fire and Raoul almost appears to want Christine more just because he wants to win. He sits in the opera box with the police and orchestrates a trap for The Phantom, using Christine to do so regardless of her safety or what she and The Phantom may mean to each other. Raoul will be a count and has the means to marry Christine and leave the Opera Populaire, but they don’t do so when they have the chance. Instead, it is The Phantom’s ‘if you love something, set it free’ revelation that makes Raoul the hero. The Phantom of the Opera makes for a very interesting study of the entire triumvirate, and Wilson fills the role that needs to be filled – but he isn’t given all the support Raoul needs. Like the criticism on his co-stars’ singing, I don’t think Raoul deserves a lot of the hate he receives, but with less screen time and overt romance, he simply seems too wimpy to best The Phantom.

 

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The Company

Fortunately, The Phantom of the Opera has a fun supporting cast, even if they are both over and under used. Minnie Driver (Good Will Hunting) is a diva in the truest sense of the word with an over the top Italian wink at the expected opera stylings as “Prima Donna” Carlotta. It’s easy for audiences to be amused at her parody thanks to some wild feathers, furs, and gaudy colors – her design is in keeping with the stage show panache whilst standing out along with her clashing antagonism. New opera owners Ciaran Hinds (Rome) and Simon Callow (Shakespeare in Love) also add humor with their toeing the line of incompetence as the Opera Ghost who isn’t a ghost at all demands a theatre salary from them with his letter writing campaign. “Prima Donna” is fun for the ensemble, and the comedy routines away from The Phantom do help ease what might be difficult romance and musical stylings for non-Broadway audiences. But again, it’s all a bit much and too audacious compared to any Phantom suspense. Thankfully, Miranda Richardson (Sleepy Hollow) is intriguingly subdued and knows more than she’s saying as Madame Giry. Those bookends and flashbacks don’t quite clarify her history, confuse character ages, and don’t do justice on how much she’s really involved. She says Christine is like a daughter to her, but does that make The Phantom her problem child? A non-singing conversation of explanation would have been welcomed, and likewise, Jennifer Ellison (Brookside) as Madame Giry’s daughter Meg remains the meek best friend and an unheeded Cassandra. She’s always dressed like a fragile little girl or ballerina in a jewelry box and calls out each time The Phantom makes his appearance, yet her scenes are otherwise silent with only simmering scoring – as if she is curious about The Phantom but not quite ready to awaken to love like Christine. Meg disappears or reappears from The Phantom of the Opera as needed, and it’s a pity we don’t get enough mother/daughter dynamics with her or more interesting dialogue with Christine. In film mode, the audience needs this sort of bounce off player to which we can relate instead of on the nose routines for the sake of it like “Masquerade.” These numbers and their grandeur work on the stage, but the dimmed palette in contrast to the Red Death here needn’t be so obvious onscreen – especially when thinly drawn support and its talented players are ripe for development. The company celebrates the hidden and the disguise in “Masquerade” and thus insults The Phantom in his house before pursuing him in “Track This Murderer Down.” If he’s been doing these ghostly goings-on for three years, why didn’t anyone seek him sooner? Leave some supplies on the steps, invite him upstairs, put him to an instrument and you know, be kind. Wise cinemagoers get the bungling, humorous antagonist cliché, so we’re glad when The Phantom makes that threatening “Why So Silent?” entrance and steals the steamy show in “The Point of No Return.” If you’re going to have this fine ensemble, give them their due before the spectacle and give their actions for or against The Phantom some real meaning beyond stereotypical filler.

 

Some seemingly lecherous aspects of the behind the curtain repertoire are also suggested just enough rather than fully explored. Stagehand Kevin McNally (Pirates of the Caribbean) skeeves after the ballet company and proves creepier than anything we thought of The Phantom. What kinds of sexual trades, favors, and abuses most likely went on at the opera in those days? Is The Phantom saving Christine from such services? Is this why the company suspects she and Raoul – the opera house patron – are already lovers? Firmin and Andre go arm in arm with two young dancers who are overheard talking about how rich the former scrap mental entrepreneurs must be. Are the lowers rungs of the Opera Populaire ambitious or pimped out and abused by others? Madame Giry is even dressed up as a geisha while Meg costumes as a swan. Is “Madame” Giry the hostess or something more – did she or the owners protect or pimp their repertory? Surely the viewer is expected to understand the adulterous plot of “Il Muto” goes down on stage and off, right? While The Phantom of the Opera debates whether The Phantom is angel or demon, subtle religious positions are also implied about the ensemble. Meg and Raoul can be seen wearing crosses when they wear white, and the cross on the Daae crypt glows red during The Phantom’s deception in “Wandering Child.” Though often wearing black, Madame Giry is also seen with a cross, suggesting she is nunned or at the very least reformed for her part. Is she giving Christine to The Phantom so she can save or prospect her own daughter? Again, these secondary layers and complexities would have better served the film version of The Phantom of the Opera rather than the company’s over long, filler music.

 

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The Production

The Phantom of the Opera may unevenly place its spectacle above all else, but it does indeed look smashing! Liberties taken away from the stage create embellishment and improvements that couldn’t be done in the theatre. Antique sepia tones and black and white patinas give The Phantom of the Opera proper period mood, and great feathers, gold, sparkle, and colorful jewel tones accent the 1870 Paris authentic but no less fairy tale costuming delights. Gas lamps, tinted, near whimsical and magical lighting, and lots and lots of candles add dimension and establish the high and low differences between the lavish of the theatrics at front, the hurried of the stage behind, and the dungeon-esque danger below. Despite being mostly interiors or obvious sound stages made to look outside snowy, the set dressings look good thanks to great depth, mirrors, smoke, and waterworks. The Phantom of the Opera may be to beholden to being its stage predecessor on film, but this traditional presentation is a lot better than the desperate, sweeping CGI seen in Sweeney Todd. So what if we can occasionally see some of the indie filmmaking small-scale short cuts and The Phantom’s deformity and make up design changes from grotesque to not so bad and even handsome or sexy as needed. When the audience sees something so nice everywhere we look, then we can forgive these minor, or in some cases, deliberate flaws. The Dracula-esque carriage ride and cemetery dressings add melancholy elements while the red, darkening Don Juan presentation amid “The Point of No Return” provides airs of Dante and I must say, the “Satan’s Alley” number in Staying Alive. One wants to take the trip to The Phantom’s lair even as the subterranean waters turn sour and sickly green. Great single shots, pretty still images, and fine attention to detail anchor painting like frames – ironically, The Phantom of the Opera almost suffers from too much of a good thing in its over produced intentions. Where these theatrics work for a show where the seated audience must remain captivated, a film shouldn’t have to go as far as The Phantom of the Opera does with its spectacle. All the film within a film and opera behind the scenes themes are already at work without the extra flashbacks and showmanship on top.

 

Art Direction, Cinematography, and Original Song Oscar nominations came calling for The Phantom of the Opera, along with more critics associations awards, international acclaim, and Breakout hardware for Emmy Rossum. Though stage Carlotta Margaret Preece appears briefly in The Phantom of the Opera and her dubbing over Minnie Driver’s vocals is often apparent and other audio and visuals sometimes seem out of sync, Driver does sing beautifully on the “Learn to Be Lonely” original. I did speak ill of the mismatched boards to film musical aspects, but the tunes themselves and the corresponding underscore are dang catchy and stick in your head even if you don’t prefer big songs, Broadway styled orchestration, or show tunes arraignments. We can’t quite sing along with the high notes, but there is a modern, less operatic rhythm to “The Phantom of the Opera.” It’s edgy, with a trace of eighties power balladry. Of course, the Halloweenish organ is reminiscent of Bach, and one must also not think of Pink Floyd’s “Echoes” rift in order to enjoy the titular track, for they do indeed sound that much alike. Without subtitles, it would also be tough to understand when everyone is singing on top of each other, particularly with the booming music in the “Final Lair” sequence. How is one to appreciate the argument when we can’t hear all that’s being said? Fortunately, there’s no mistaking the climactic “Don Juan” and “The Point of No Return.” The duet here plays like another scandalous sex scene thanks to ascending stairs, rising octaves, and illicit lyrics. At this point, the audience in the Opera Populaire and us viewers aren’t sure where the plot of “Don Juan” ends and The Phantom and Christine begins, but we know the rising crescendos are coming to a head – or a chandelier drop.

 

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I Do Like It, I Do!

While the affordable single DVD edition of The Phantom of the Opera contains no major features, the reasonable 2 Disc Special Edition and Blu-ray releases do contain several hours of intriguing documentaries on the stage genesis and film production along with the inexplicably deleted “No One Would Listen” scene. Today we’re spoiled in expecting B rolls and hours upon hours of extra content, but remember, this was also the era of both ‘Full Screen’ (Why? Why?!) and ‘Widescreen’ video releases. Since The Phantom of the Opera’s anniversary is coming up next year, it might be nice to see a new release with digital copy, sound remixing, and some commentary tracks or retrospectives. Sadly, I’ve seen no information for such a re-issue. Perhaps I’ve been back and forth, wishy washy, and windblown in discussing The Phantom of the Opera. I do like it, I really do, and I tend to watch it two or three times in a row whenever I see it before listening to the soundtrack a few times more when the songs are stuck in my head. However, my critical mind also notices and notices and notices the ‘I see what you did there’ ad nauseum here. The Phantom of the Opera itself never quite makes up its mind whether it is going to be a video of the stage production with a weaker singing Hollywood cast or if it is going to be a lavish film structured with song and stage show elements. Had the full on musical configuration been toned down, this could have had an even broader appeal. With a clipped abundance on production and a tighter polish on it all, who knows what kind of long lasting critical glory and greater awards acclaim The Phantom of the Opera might have had. Of course, Lloyd Webber knew he didn’t have to compromise much to make a successful picture, and this is still quite a popular film with crossover cult love and enduring international appeal. The Phantom of the Opera doesn’t feel garish or turn of the millennium dated like other hit or miss attempts in the nu-musicals resurgence. Some audiences find the over production a fault, others hate the music over horror altogether, while more can’t abide Butler as The Phantom much less his inferior singing. Either way, there are chicks out there asking him to sign their Phantom of the Opera thigh tattoos! I’m not a major romance fan by any means, but I don’t think it is a slight to call this edition and its loveable, misunderstood Phantom and near fairy tale charm a precursor to the paranormal romance audience and PG-13 Twilight crowd. Where I can’t abide how the sparkle vamps have defanged old school scary vampires, I can see room for Lon Chaney’s frights and this romanticized Phantom of the Opera. Not everyone will like this film – most mainstream, non-musical audiences probably will not. There is however, a moody, musical niche for this Phantom of the Opera, and fans of the cast, lovers of gothic romance, musical viewers, and Phantom completists must see the brooding spectacle here.

 

Fanboy Comics presents: A Night Of Fearworms

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , on February 20, 2015 by David Watson

Fanboy Comics invites you to attend A Night of Fearworms to celebrate the release of its latest book, Fearworms: Selected Poems, on Friday, February 20, 2015, at 7:30 p.m. at the ACME Comedy Theatre in North Hollywood, CA.

 

shapeimage_7Join us as incredibly talented performers, including Fred Stoller (Everybody Loves Raymond, Maybe We’ll Have You Back), recite hauntingly horrifying and humorous poems from the poetry collection. Following the performances, Fanboy Comics invites you to stay for a release party and signing, where Fearworms author/illustrator Robert Payne Cabeen will be on hand to sign copies of the book.

 

Written and illustrated by Robert Payne Cabeen (Tainted Treats, Heavy Metal 2000, A Monkey’s Tale, Walking with Buddha), Fearworms is a collection of horror poems and full-color artwork that is guaranteed to have readers squirming.  Cutting close to the bone, these manically crafted word machines are visceral, psychological, haunting, and terrifyingly humorous. The book also features cover art by Eisner-winning, Emmy-nominated artist Bill Sienkiewicz (Elektra: Assassin, Stray Toasters, The New Mutants).

 

Admission for A Night of Fearworms is FREE, so be sure to mark your calendars for this night of fantastically frightful fun!

 

For more information on Fearworms: Selected Poems, please visit these sites:

Twitter:      https://twitter.com/Fearworms   (@Fearworms)

 

 

 

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About Fanboy Comics

Fanboy Comics (FBC) is a comic book publisher and online conglomerate of geek media, providing its readers with daily reviews, interviews, and podcasts that span the pop culture spectrum.  FBC seeks to provide an outlet for up-and-coming artists and writers with a desire to create new works and media.  By facilitating in-house collaborations and providing support and empowerment, FBC hopes to enable the production of professional and marketable creator-owned works.  Fanboy Comics’ graphic novels, Something Animal, Identity Thief, The Arcs, and Penguins vs. Possums: Volume One, are available online at www.fanboycomics.net.

 

Rose Blackthorn – Celebrating Women in Horror 2015

Posted in horror, News with tags , , , on February 19, 2015 by killionslade

Women In Horror 2015

Please welcome the ever vivacious Rose Blackthorn to Killion’s Kave today!  I first learned about Rose when she captivated me with her short story, Beautiful, Broken Things, in the anthology Wrapped in Black by Sekhmet Press.  I’ve always craved any type of  Morrigan tale, and Rose’s story brings empathy and love into the fearful crossroads of life’s choices.  My favorite line was, ” The taste was bitter, like his many regrets.”

Let’s learn a little bit more about Rose and Horror!

What about the horror genre interests you?

Rose Blackthorn - Horror AuthorI love the emotion – I think it’s easier to create real believable emotion in characters in the horror genre than just about anything else. Horror can be based on real life places and experiences, or it can be completely out there as far as monsters or supernatural forces or made-up places. There are very few boundaries that can’t be broken or completely obliterated in the horror genre, which makes it very freeing as a writer.

Horror can be based on real life places and experiences, or it can be completely out there as far as monsters or supernatural forces or made-up places. There are very few boundaries that can’t be broken or completely obliterated in the horror genre, which makes it very freeing as a writer.

Tell me how you feel being a woman has either enhanced or hindered your writing in the Horror genre.

Maybe I’m oblivious, or just extremely lucky, but I don’t think my gender has ever had much to do with my success as a writer. I am a very emotional person (I’ve been known to cry, even sob, at certain commercials – don’t ask) but that may or may not have anything to do with the fact that I’m female. I try to use that empathy to add depth to my characters, and hopefully create an emotional response in my readers. As far as how I’ve been treated by editors, publishers, and other authors – I have to say I don’t have any horror stories to share. ;)

This is very true!  Real horror elicits emotion, and that’s when you know it’s good!

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up? How’d that turn out for you? :D I also wanted to be a chiropractor, because my father was one. When I found out I had to carve up a real live dead body in school … yeah … I taught myself how to code instead. LOL

For a while I wanted to be a performer – a dancer or singer. I took dancing lessons for several years, but never went any farther than that. I sang in a choir in school, until my teacher told me in no uncertain terms that I wasn’t good enough to do anything with it. (Whether or not he was right, he certainly ended that dream).

I’ve been reading voraciously since I was five or six years old, and have been writing since my teens. I’ve always thought it would be the best “job” ever to be a full-time writer. I have published a few short stories and poems, and have written (but not published) more than one novel. I still think being a full-time writer would be the best job, but haven’t reached that point. However, I’m still working on it. :)

I agree!  Being a full-time writer is a huge dream!  I LOVE my day-job, it is very needed and enjoyed. The days I’m able to plan plotlines and write dialogue are treasured gems!

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I don’t have a novel out, although I’m working on a couple. As far as a message in my writing – it just depends on what it is. I’ve written some things that are very close to my own heart, in which I’m sharing my own pain. Some are just for entertainment with no “deep meaning”.

What was a time in your life when you were really scared?

I guess when my mother passed away. I am an only child of a single parent, and so when she died it was the first time I felt that I didn’t have an older, wiser person looking out for me with my best interests in mind. I was married at the time, so I had my husband, and I had several very good friends who were there for me. But I definitely felt like an orphan, even though I was in my thirties and a responsible adult.

I can completely identify with that pain and loss. Nothing can frighten you to a child more than the loss of a parent. {{HUGS}}

Do you look to your own phobias to find subject matter? Are your stories the products of nightmares, childhood experiences, fantasies?

I have written stories and poems about dreams I’ve had, and based my writing more than once on experiences from my own life, even if only on character development or emotional responses. Fantasies are always fodder for a new tale to tell.

As far as using my own personal phobias – no, I haven’t done that. Maybe I should, because it would take some of the fear out of them. But I don’t even like thinking about those deep-seated involuntary fears of mine, let alone spending hours immersed in them while writing.

What is one stereotype about horror writers is absolutely wrong? What one stereotype is dead on?

Twice Upon A Time Anthology“Horror writers ain’t right in the head.” Obviously that one is wrong. Right? :)

Dead on? Judging from those horror authors I know (either personally or through social media) that would be, “Horror writers can look at something innocent and innocuous, and immediately find the darkness or off-kilter thing that leads to something frightening.”

I know I’ve been that way most of my life. My wonderful mother introduced me to Stephen King and John Saul at a very young age, and I’ve embraced that “what if” that leads down the less-trodden path ever since.

Your mother was a very wise woman!  Go Mom!

What advice would you give to writers just starting out?

Don’t give up. It’s hard if you are getting rejections, or if people in your life don’t understand the time and emotion that you invest in your writing. Sometimes it’s hard to keep going. But if you love it, don’t give up. You’ll never know how far you might go if you give up.

What are you currently working on? Any new story or book releases? What’s on deck for you in 2015?

Speculative Valentine Drabbles 2015I have a fantasy novel, an urban-fantasy/post-apocalyptic novel and a horror/post-apocalyptic novel that are all in various stages and being worked on. There are also a few short stories in the queue.
As far as releases – I have a drabble “Young Love” in Speculative Valentine Drabbles 2015 released by Indie Authors Press on Feb. 4th.

I have a short story, “Beneath the Shadows of the Red-Leafed Maple” that will appear in the Eldritch Press anthology Our World of Horror to be released in 2015.

And, in the anthology Twice Upon A Time from Bearded Scribe Press I have a story titled “Before the First Day of Winter” which should be out within the next month or so. Also from Eldritch Press, sometime in 2015 I’ll be releasing my poetry collection titled Thorns, Hearts and Thistles which includes my photography as well.

And of course … my signature question – What is something that truly frightens you and how do you deal with it?

There are different kinds of fear. I’m terrified of bees/wasps/hornets. I’ve nearly wrecked my car when one flew into an open window.  I’ve stood frozen and screaming (as a child) while one crawled on my arm. It’s completely visceral, and I have no control over it. How I deal with that is simply trying to never put myself in the position where I have to be around them. I love flowers, but stay away from them when the bees are there.

The other kind of fear is more internal. I’m terrified of losing those I love, whether it be friends, family members, or my fur-kids. I have few really strong relationships anymore, because I can’t bear to lose them. If you’re part of my life, expect to be stuck with me forever – because I don’t want to let go!

Love Passionately!
Amazon link for Speculative Valentine Drabbles 2015 from Indie Author Press:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00T7VCFHY

Excerpt from Before the First Day of Winter, available soon from The Bearded Scribe Press:

There was a path down the ten foot drop of rock, carved as rude steps and handholds that Jordon took cautiously. He was terrified and wanted to rush headlong, but falling and breaking an ankle would help no one. As he reached the beach, the last roseate beams of sunlight made the fog incandesce, rendering his lantern redundant. But the brighter light hid more than it revealed, and his eyes burned and watered as he tried to find some sign of her.
Something moved to his right, and Jordon flinched. As quickly as the sun lit the fog, when it dropped below the horizon the billowing mist immediately became opaque. Shadows darted high, hunched low near the edge of incoming waves, and the sound of wings filled the air as the last gulls lifted from their foraging.

“Naia,” he called, desperate now. He moved toward the thicker shadows, lantern held high again.
Crumpled on the sand, safe from all but the highest tide, were a faded red skirt and sleeveless white shirt. Bare footprints led from the discarded clothing to the sea, and Jordon hastened to follow.
“Naia, don’t,” he shouted, “please don’t go!”
The mist shifted and thinned, giving him a clear view of maybe a dozen yards of wet sand and rushing waves. Standing knee-deep in rising water, Naia pulled something dark and heavy around her shoulders. Her hair lashed in the wind, and she looked back at him for only a moment.

“Naia—”

Then she was gone, and something dark and sleek swam away into the restless sea.

Want to learn more about Rose?  Connect with Rose on Facebook.

Mimielle: One Chance at Love…NOT!!

Posted in News with tags , , , on February 18, 2015 by Mimielle

This one is mostly for the guys..unusual for me to write but here it is!

Valentine’s day just passed, right? Think you are off the hook except for maybe her birthday if it’s still to come, right? Wrong…if she’s been reading anything about Japan!

black heart kanji love
In Japan, Valentine’s Day has morphed into something different than it is in the West, actually 2 Holidays! The bad news is that March 14th is White Day, traditionally the day for males to give chocolate and small gifts to females so be expecting her to expect something if she has mentioned this (or is reading this article) and shop and plan accordingly.

         

The good news is that you have a second chance to redeem yourself (and your romance) if you flubbed it up the first time on February 14th! Very convenient for the forgetful too, hm? Just surprise her on White Day this year like you planned it all along!

cupid is a sniper

At least the 50 Shades of Grey movie premiere IS past and that’s a good thing, right? Seems Dakota Johnson thinks so too.

Stay Beautiful, Addicts! ~Mimielle~

Kbatz: Demented Love!

Posted in News with tags , , , , on February 16, 2015 by kbattz

Demented Love!

By Kristin Battestella

Be it vintage or new, quality or hokey, these pictures are full of unconventional, monstrous, slicing and dicing…romance?

204982x480Hannibal – This 2001 sequel to Silence of the Lambs obviously has big shoes to fill. Thankfully and blessedly, Giancarlo Giannini (Casino Royale) is great, and the Italian scenery is flat out awesome. Ray Liotta (Goodfellas) is sleazy and so much fun while the twisted Gary Oldman (Bram Stoker’s Dracula) is unrecognizable. Even in the shadow of prior Clarice Starling Oscar winner Jodie Foster, Julianne Moore (The Hours) shapes her own Clarice beautifully. And but of course returning Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins is wonderful. He is without a doubt the star here, and does the most in what seems like less screen time. The one on one dialogue and action sequences are perfect, with fine suspense pacing, intelligentsia horror, class, sexy, and gore. Unfortunately, however great the performances are in getting there, the storyline does meander. Director Ridley Scott’s (Blade Runner) ending is somewhat flat and leaves a ‘What was the point of all this?’ feeling. Nevertheless, I applaud the twisted romantic aspects and creepy for adults only production. Twilight wishes it could be like this.

My Bloody Valentine – There’s more forgettable 1981 interchangeable hokey hicks here- but this time all the juicy gore, unique deaths, and claustrophobic dangers are in a great labyrinthine mine inhabited by a pickaxe wielding killer.  The re-inserted deadly details are shocking and sweet, with interesting or askew camerawork, kink, and mystery. However, the scenes are unrestored and noticeably out of place- making a tough viewing for some audiences who expect a bit more polish on blu-ray.  Naturally due to the titular Valentine plot twists, I’m not so sure this is a good October or Halloween-esque film.  Then again, we could all use a little freaky in our February, for sure. I must say I did predict the killer’s identity before the finale, but it was dang entertaining in getting there nonetheless.

Swamp Thing – There’s a great story here from the DC Comics plots- all kinds of kinky, monster innuendo, power debates, sociological statements, and demented science.  I do, however, expect a little more polish from director Wes Craven (Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream), as the photography and editing presentation hampers this most. Despite the serious relationships onscreen, numerous and disjointed fade ins or weird slide transitions make this feel like a series of action incidents rather than a cohesive tale. Thankfully, the swampy water and South Carolina locations work wonderfully, and Adrienne Barbeau (The Fog), Ray Wise (Twin Peaks), and the late Dick Durock (also of the Swamp Thing TV series) are a lot of fun. Though he appears to have never been in anything else, Reggie Batts is also a scene-stealing treat as the sarcastic Jude. We can believe Barbeau as the smart, sexy woman who can handle herself, as well- just that dang 1982 mini afro mullet combo hair does not work. Louis Jourdan (Octopussy) is also mustache twisting villainy sweet, even if the monster make-up and the action finale is quite hokey.  Fortunately, the uncut version is currently available on Netflix’s Instant Watch, complete with boobs a plenty.  And really, I’m so, so tired of forthcoming 3D remake talk!

Wolf Though this 1994 lycan tale from Oscar winning director Mike Nichols (The Graduate, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Silkwood) is imperfect with its fair share of plot holes and unanswered questions, I like it.  Face it; this is the best, if not the only, mature wolf movie around.  Thanks to the sarcastic and witty performances by Jack Nicholson (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Chinatown, The Shining) and the rest of the all-star cast, Wolf smartly doesn’t take itself too seriously.  The beguiling Michelle Pfeiffer (Scarface, The Fabulous Baker Boys), a wonderfully disturbing James Spader (sex, lives, and videotape, Boston Legal), the charming Christopher Plummer (The Sound of Music, The Moneychangers), and plenty more on form supporting players are allowed to have their fun.  These are all great, big names one wouldn’t usually see in any old horror movie, either.  There’s even a good bit of scares and kinky violence here-especially on an initial viewing.  Some of the effects are hokey now, but others are very well done with fine spooky build-ups.  Despite plotting faults and a little confusion, there’s more good than bad in Wolf.  Multiple viewings are even in order to catch all of the subliminal suggestions.

Your Verdict?

Let Me InThere’s a lot this 2010 remake gets right- the abstract parental photography, disturbing performances, bully storytelling, and creepy mystery. It’s focused scenes with Chloe Moretz (Kick Ass) and Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road) are genuine and well played. However, director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) should have stayed with this unique or what we don’t see youth examination instead of breaking away for over the top deaths and action. Though my niece says the book is very different, this film version seems overlong and too mature for its audience. Do 12 year olds really comprehend all this sex and blood? Yet, this is not for adults and seems too of its age. Where did we get this juvenile horror trend and premature exposure to predators and prey? Cursing, killing, eighties sounds and styles- it all seems absurd for today’s pre-teen. This film is not a ‘vampire romance.’ The players seem advantageous, cruel, manipulative. Does Abby periodically make new 12-year-old friends so they grow old and remain indebted to her? Are we to feel sorry for an old vampire in a child body who likes little boys? Is this supposed to be about innocence and bullying or maturity and vampire souls? The unanswered questions and youth fluff over the adult substance undoes the good for me here.

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